Same circumstances, 15 years later, but with AED assistance
By Sean Shapiro
Special to the TJP
A quick, calm reaction saved Mitch Meyers’ life — and not for the first time.
Meyers, 57, was playing basketball at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas on Oct. 31. Typically he coached the team, but due to Halloween, the team was short of players and he was on the court playing with his 22-year-old son Logan.
That’s when Meyers “hit the deck,” and his life was in jeopardy.
Meyers had gone into sudden cardiac arrest. He was dying on the basketball court.
But he lived to tell his story, thanks to a quick reaction and the Automated Extended Defibrillator machine that was close by.
“They shocked me twice and the paramedics came and took me to the emergency room,” Meyers said. “And here I am, still kicking.”
This was the second heart attack Meyers has had. On Dec. 5, 2001, he was also playing basketball at the JCC and went into cardiac arrest shortly after returning home. It was an eye-opening moment for the then 42-year-old who thought he was in shape. He started living a healthier lifestyle.
“I was going to be celebrating the 15-year anniversary this week, I still am, but I guess now I have two anniversaries,” Meyers said.
The Halloween episode was a group effort. Julie Cruz, who is the assistant gymnastic director at the JCC, jumped into action. So did Robert Reed, who was playing in the game when Meyers went down. Others also assisted before the paramedics arrived.
“There was a lot of chaos, but everyone was calm right around us and did the right thing,” Cruz said. “We have training and everything, but really have to thank the AED machine, which made it a lot simpler and gave the guidelines we needed.”
Meyers is trying to take the positives out of the situation. He’s still alive, which he’s obviously thankful for, while he wants to help spread awareness about heart health and help save others’ lives in similar situations.
“I’m a healthy person, by pretty much all accounts, and this happened to me twice,” Meyers said. “It’s important that people know their family history; that’s a big thing. Do you have any history of heart problems in your family? Training is also big.”
CPR training is typically a simple and quick process. Classes are often cheap or free. While certification is usually good for two years, refresher courses are encouraged.
And the training could help save someone else’s life. Although several jumped into action when Meyers collapsed, others didn’t know what to do and weren’t trained in CPR.
“I look at that part of the situation, and you want to change that,” Meyers said. “You want to be in a spot where something like that happens, it could happen anywhere and people are ready to respond appropriately.”
The staff at the JCC responded appropriately on Halloween, which goes back to preparation and readiness.
There are six AED machines on the JCC campus, placed in areas of high traffic and high activity, and they’ve been there for “more than a decade,” according to JCC CEO Artie Allen.
“I wasn’t there when this incident happened, but I’m proud and happy with the result, of course,” Allen said. “Mitch is a beloved member of our community and we are so happy to see him come out of this. It also is a reminder for us and our staff about how important it is to be trained and ready.”
And Meyers is thankful for that.
He happily celebrated the 15-year anniversary of his first heart attack this week with his wife Janice, his son Logan and daughter Alexa.
“I don’t plan on having another in 15 years, I can promise you that,” Meyers said. “But I’m able to be here today because of other people being ready for something like this happening. That’s why it’s so important that as many people as possible get CPR trained and know how to handle a situation like this in the future.”